Review Summary: slightly confuzzled
You’ll be hard pressed to find a release this year as ambitious as The Ruby Suns’ Sea Lion
. On the New Zealand group’s sophomore effort, they combine lo-fi indie production with shoegaze, post-punk, indie pop, and world music elements. The result is a moderately successful album that finds its greatest moments when it doesn’t try too hard to accomplish its goals.
The aforementioned genre-mashing isn’t something innovative or new to the genre. It’s been tried time and time again and rarely proves to be more than something that looks good on paper. However, with Sea Lion,
the Suns execute the blend surprisingly well when they don’t put too much on their plate, which is something they’re guilty of on more than one occasion. An excellent example of their craft is “Ole Rinka,” which features some of the album’s catchiest Beach Boys-inspired vocal melodies and swells from simple xylophone echoes to layers of bells and keys with an infectious bassline to boot. On the quick thrills of “Oh, Mojave” and “Tane Mahuta,” the band fuses quirky Latin and African influences into fun, though admittedly dorky sing-a-longs that never fail to amuse.
Where the Suns falter most is in their song structures. Other than the near-perfect flow of “Kenya Dig It?”’s transitions from the soaring bass-driven opening into the rad as *** flute section and back out, and the previously mentioned faster tracks that leave no room for screwing around, each song suffers from some form of meandering purposeless noise, jarring, nonsensical “shifts,” or droning snoozer sections. The most obvious offender of all of the above is the closer, “Morning Sun.” It begins with a long repetition of one of the most excruciatingly annoying vocal lines until noise overtakes it into an utterly pointless ambient section before jumping straight into a completely unrelated
synthpop outro that makes no logical sense nor does it add any kind of “hey cool that was unexpected” factor. Another culprit is “Blue Penguin,” whose intro seemingly becomes lost in its own dullness before realizing it’s got some more slow-paced action to plod through.
Overall, the Ruby Suns craft some amazing melodies and hooks and can occasionally connect to make an exceptional song, but need to narrow their focus and cut down on self-indulgence to make this Sea Lion
slightly less confuzzled.